German MPs vent on Twitter after Bundestag speaker asks them to pocket cellphones
Wolfgang Schaeuble, president of the German Bundestag (the lower house of parliament) told lawmakers they now should pocket their mobile devices and stop tweeting from inside plenary sessions, broadcaster Deutschlandfunk reported on Wednesday. “The use of [mobile] devices to take pictures, tweet or disseminate news about plenary procedures is inappropriate and therefore not wanted during Bundestag sessions,” Schaeuble wrote in a letter to 709 MPs.
The Bundestag speaker explained that he wanted to remind MPs of the rules, pedantically adding: “Generally, devices, especially mobile phones and tablets, may only be used with restraint and in a manner appropriate for your participation [in plenary sessions].”
Shortly after the news was broken by German media, several MPs responded with irritation and anger – via Twitter.
“Devices to use Twitter are unwanted? You can watch a session live but we’re not allowed to tweet about it?” Frank Sitta, deputy faction leader of the Free Democratic Party (FDP) tweeted. He asked rhetorically: “Is it OK to go out [to use a device]? Is it OK to use Facebook or Instagram, or hand-written documents?”
„Geräte zum Twittern“ sind unerwünscht? Man kann die Sitzung zwar live verfolgen, aber wir dürfen nichts über den Plenarverlauf twittern? Also wenn man rausgeht ist es ok? Facebook und Instagram gehen klar? Ein handschriftlicher Brief wäre ok? Das ergibt doch alles keinen Sinn! https://t.co/jkYtWLIKRn— Frank Sitta (@franksitta) November 22, 2017
Kordula Schulz-Asche, a Green Party MP, tweeted: “I would go out or carry kilograms of paper to read documents. But this is all bad for the environment and my shoulders. Long live digitalization.” She also said the problem is that the Bundestag has no WLAN connection.
Ich könnte auch razsgehen oder wieder kiloweise Papier schleppen, um Dokumente zu lesen. Das wäre aber schlecht für die Umwelt UND meine Schultern. Es lebe die Digitalisierung.— Kordula Schulz-Asche (@K_SA) November 22, 2017
Ehrlich gesagt haben wir ohnehin das Problem, dass es im Bundestag kein WLAN gibt.— Kordula Schulz-Asche (@K_SA) November 22, 2017
Left Party member Niema Movassat said he has “little understanding of banning the use of Twitter in Bundestag … commenting on actual events is transparency.”
The Bundesrat, the upper house, ridiculed Schauble’s letter, tweeting: “There is no Twitter ban yet at Bundesrat … we have WLAN!”
While Schaeuble, a veteran politician and former finance minister, is something of a social media neophyte, he is no stranger to mobile devices, as the 2012 Sudoku incident proves.
Some MPs reminded of Schauble’s gaming preferences. “I am for a Twitter ban and for a compulsory Sudoku in the Bundestag,” wrote Andreas Lenz, member of the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU) party.
ARD reported in 2012 that Schaeuble was into playing Sudoku combinations at a time when the Bundestag was debating a €130-billion (US$154-billion) aid package for Greece, which was balancing on the brink of bailout. Notably, the broadcaster was forced to discard the footage after the Bundestag told the channel “making of unauthorized images of personal documents in a readable way” was prohibited, Bild reported.
Rainer Rothfuss, geopolitical analyst and consultant believes that there is something more behind banning German lawmakers from using Twitter during parliamentary sessions. He said that “the media revolution that we have seen by using Twitter – for example, like in the case of US President Donald Trump, where he has gathered already more than  million users could rather be the point that he wants to address,” he said, adding that Wolfgang Schaeuble “wants to ban the use of Twitter to make the sessions and the debates a little less transparent.”
Rothfuss went on saying that Schaeuble wishes “that Parliamentarians get quicker and better information during the debates in Parliament, because often they don’t have this expertise in detail that they would need to decide issues like foreign policy, Syria intervention, etc.”
“You need a device at your hand, where you could find very quickly very precise information. It is also good to show that Parliamentarians are transparent and they share their thoughts and the information also with the voters,” he told RT.